Jan 16, 2010

Silly Earthquake Commentary

The earthquake in Haiti this week was devastating. Since then, matters have grown ever more grim.

The impulse to try to make sense of calamitous natural disasters by imbuing them with spiritual significance is an ancient one. Televangelist Pat Robertson's belief that Haitians brought the earthquake upon themselves by making a pact with the devil during the late 1700s has outraged many. His remarks to that effect start at about 32 seconds in this video:

Meanwhile, actor Danny Glover thinks the earthquake is Mother Nature's way of sending us all a message. There's a connection, he says, between the failure of the world's leaders to reach an accord at last month's Copenhagen climate summit and the fact that the capital city of one of the world's poorest nations has been reduced to rubble.

“When we see what we did at the climate summit in Copenhagen, this is the response, this is what happens, you know what I’m saying?” Glover declared in a telephone interview. Those remarks begin at about 1 minute 55 seconds:

The television station that interviewed Glover describes him as an "activist, actor and producer." Which equips him, how exactly, to comment on the reasons there's been an earthquake?

Celebrities are entitled to their opinions. The problem is that they - and often we - imagine that these opinions are more significant than those of a bus driver or a fast food attendant.

All of this brings to mind a brief exchange in the 2008 slapstick comedy Get Smart. Two villains discuss their diabolical plan to set off a nuclear bomb in Los Angeles. "Still," one of them says, "it's too bad about all the dead movie stars."

"Yes," replies the other sarcastically, "what will we do without their razor-sharp political advice?"

see also: How "Nature's fury" replaced God's fury by Brendan O'Neill over at Spiked Online